January 2, 2017
President Hassan Rouhani has said that the 2015 nuclear deal saved Iran’s economy from near-collapse.
In a 90-minute interview on Sunday night, Rouhani said oil exports would have fallen to about 10% of their level of 2.5 million barrels per day in 2012, before stringent US and European sanctions took full effect.
He continued, “Even if our oil export was…1 million barrels per day today, now we had half of our current income, only enough to pay [Government] salaries.”
Rouhani’s statement bluntly rejected the position, still held by many within the Iranian regime and some activists in the US, that sanctions had no effect on Tehran’s approach to the nuclear discussions with the 5+1 Powers. It also supports the story that, just after his inauguration in August 2013, the President used warnings of economic crisis to convince the Supreme Leader to support negotiations despite Ayatollah Khamenei’s animosity towards the US Government.
STRIKING BACK AT CRITICS
Rouhani has been under fire by Iranian hardliners — including the Supreme Leader — over implementation of the nuclear deal since January 2016. He has been accused of weakness toward the US, as some Washington sanctions continue and the Islamic Republic still struggles for economic recovery.
The President responded on Sunday that oil exports have risen to almost 2 million barrels per day in the past year. He said the Government was successfully tackling employment, “the most important issue of our country”, claiming that the number in work had risen from 21.3 million when he took office in 2013 to 23 million today.
Rouhani’s position has been complicated by the US financial restrictions, which — along with internal tensions, including with the Revolutionary Guards — have hindered efforts for foreign investment in key Iranian sectors. Last month, the US Congress gave further ammunition to the President’s opponents when it extended the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act for another 10 years.
Rouhani spoke specifically about deals with France’s Airbus and America’s Boeing for jets to rebuild Iran’s passenger fleet. He maintained that, despite issues with completion, the first planes will be delivered within the next three months.
He summarized, for audiences abroad and at home, “We will fulfill our commitments and we hope the other side do the same…because it was supposed to be a win-win deal.”
NO PARTITION OF SYRIA
Speaking about regional affairs, Rouhani declared that “Iran has helped all those seeking [assistance from us] such as Iraq and Syria in international campaigns against terrorism”.
The President indicated that Tehran would resist the imminent partition of Syria, “opposing changes of borders in the region”. He said “success will be achieved in the upcoming peace talks” in Kazakhstan between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition.